Club move away from Academy and '˜Towards the Premiership'

Falkirk's decision to withdraw funding to the Forth Valley Football Academy is aimed at returning the club '˜Towards the Premiership'

Margaret Lang and Craig Campbell
Margaret Lang and Craig Campbell

That’s the name of the blueprint created by chairman Margaret Lang and CEO Craig Campbell – and one which won’t include paying for the Stirling-based youth set-up.

In a cost-saving exercise, the Bairns will stop handing over £340,000 each year and instead this money will be used pushing towards a return to the top tier after an eight year absence, going on nine.

Initially though it’s not going straight into Paul Hartley’s hands – it’s stemming the tide of outgoings at Westfield to make the club stronger for a push to the top league after two seasons of losses even AFTER player sales.

“This is not a knee jerk reaction. The strategic review and plan has been identified since Craig and I started,” explained the club chairman. “All aspects have to be for a successful team on the pitch and how we resource that. We’ve looked at the whole model and what it’s like going forward, how we do it and what players we need to take it forward.”

The club will look to expand the recruitment network in Scotland and England identifying young promising players such as Tommy Robson who has arrived from Sunderland’s under-23s “for the price of a weekly wage”. It’s a model employed by Brentford which is one of a number of clubs the duo visited as they mapped the plan for the Falkirk future.

“The Academy has brought in revenues from player transfer fees, but it’s not one way. We have had expenditure to recoup them,” explained Margaret Lang. “An Academy had been part of the club strategy – but in the Premiership. Now, look at the financial difference between being in the Premiership and the Championship. My first job is to be responsible for the sustainability and success of Falkirk Football and Athletic Club Ltd, and the first team.”

Mr Campbell added: “Youth development has been part of Falkirk’s DNA. Me? I want success in the Premiership as part of the club DNA, not staying in the Championship with young players. The number one aim of the plan is to take the club back to the Premiership.”

The withdrawl of the cash is not a complete divorce either, it was stressed. If an alternative partnership or support is suggested, it can be investigated. It just won’t include £340,000 heading up the M9 annually.

The CEO explained: “This doesn’t necessarily free up £340,000 – we are currently relying on transfers in our budget. If player sales don’t happen, what do we use to plug the gap? The Academy costs £340,000 so you need to bring that in, each season, on average in transfer fees. To make a profit we need £500,000 a year.

“Recently, £300k is the loss we are making AFTER player sales. And that is coming second in the Championship, when we received £420,000 prize money. If we finish where we are in the league now, we lose a further £250k from that prize. That’s why the first team is so important.

“Funding an Academy as a Championship club – after eight years here – is a luxury we cannot afford.”

Sales of Academy players have also slowed in the past two years too. The club has benefitted from add-ons in deals to tide it over in recent seasons and 45% of Academy transfer income has come from one player – Stephen Kingsley, helped by his move to Hull City in the summer.

It has come as a shock for fans, proud of, and emotionally attached to the progression of Academy graduates growing up from ‘Bairns to Men’. and also to Paul Hartley who visited the set-up on his second day in the job and quickly pitched in one of its youngsters – Ciaran Dunne – to his first team.

“He was shocked when we told him – it wasn’t his decision as some suggested,” added Campbell. “But Paul understands the strategy and what we are focussed on in returning this club to the Premiership.”